There was a time when the only guy you really looked at in a band, was the singer. The shift towards other members becoming stars started during the ’60s when bands like the Beatles and the Stones showed that the other members were just as important as the guy standing out front. Bands became experimental, and with this, a new audience emerged looking for something different, this was the time established musicians moved beyond the groups that made their name and joined forces with other musicians to create entirely new entities, the “Supergroup.”
So, with that said, here’s our pick of the Top 10 Supergroups of all time.
Beck, Bogert & Appice
Hailed as the as the rhythm section for one of heavy rock’s forerunners Vanilla Fudge, vocalist/bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice hooked up with legendary guitarist Jeff Beck in this our first supergroup in our top 10. Beck was already a solo artist and was hailed a guitar hero. He had played with The Yardbirds back in the ‘60s, and word has it that he had frequently crossed paths with Bogert and Appice over the years. Once formed, the trio spent most of 1973 touring across the globe in support of their one and only album simply called: Beck, Bogert & Appice. Alas, this supergroup wasn’t meant to be, and the trio dissolved early the next year while recording its follow-up.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer
As with our last entry, there was no band name suggested for this supergroup other than the last names of the three members, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, or, ELP for short. This trio was formed in 1970, and each members resume was already rather impressive. Keith Emerson had been with The Nice, Greg Lake was with heavyweights King Crimson, and Carl Palmer had had stints with Atomic Rooster and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. All of the bands we just mentioned would be good on anybody’s resume, but all of them were mere mortals compared to the huge success that Emerson Lake and Palmer would go on to achieve.
Yep, that’s right Journey. What a lot people may not know, or tend to forget is that Journey started out as a Santanaoffshoot, and was all about serious art rock and not big time radio-friendly AOR music. Journey was the mastermind of Santana manager Herbie Herbert, who in 1973 poached vocalist/keyboardist Gregg Rolie and guitarist Neal Schon away from Santana, as well as bassist Ross Valory and rhythm guitarist George Tickner out of psychedelic outfit Frumious Bandersnatch, and drummer Aynsley Dunbar who had played with the Jeff Beck Group. The band’s first three albums did ok, but when the band had a refit, and sole survivors Schon and Valory brought in new singer Steve Perry, this was a game changer and ushered the arena-conquering second phase of the band.
This band was a serious case of one-and-done. The self-titled album was released in 1969 and was something of a spur-of-the-moment hangover for former Cream members Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker, who recruited Spencer Davis Group and Traffic member Steve Winwood, and Ric Grech. Blind Faith claimed the #1 spot on both the US and UK charts, and the album also yielded some classic tunes, (Winwood’s ‘Can’t Find My Way Home,’ and Clapton’s ‘Presence of the Lord.’
Formed in 1973, Bad Company were the epitome of a supergroup. Paul Rodgers (vocals) and Simon Kirke (drums) were paired with Mott the Hoople’s Mick Ralphs on guitar and King Crimson’s Boz Burrell on bass. That in itself is something to talk about, but when you add the fact that the band was the first artists to sign to Peter Grant and Led Zeppelin’s label, Swan Song. Their eponymous 1974 debut was an international smash, it topped the U.S. album charts and scored a number one single “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love.”
Asia assembled the best of the best, prog rockers, vocalist/bassist John Wetton from King Crimson, guitarist Steve Howe was from prog kings Yes, keyboard player Geoff Downes, who had been with Yes, and MTV darlings, The Buggles, and drummer Carl Palmer, the ‘P’ in ELP. They were 80s AOR at its most bombastic, and their 1982 debut took off like a rocket. With several hit singles and videos that were played incessantly by MTV, you had to have thought this train was never going to stop. Not so fast. They split and were gone as quick as they came, and years later there were two competing versions of the band on tour.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
What can you say about this supergroup that the name doesn’t already say? David Crosby of The Byrds, Stephen Stills of Buffalo Springfield, Graham Nash of The Hollies and of course the oldest folk punk rocker on the block Neil Young, really do epitomize the term supergroup. You knew there was magic when their vocal harmonies took over radio airwaves and sent the audience into a trance at Max Yasgur’s farm during the Woodstock Festival, which by the way was their second gig ever! There is a strong argument that you could even say that CSNY was more responsible more than any other act for introducing the supergroup concept into the mainstream.
Derek & the Dominoes
Eric Clapton’s second appearance on this list is as a member of Derek & the Dominoes. Ironically, he used the Derek & the Dominoes pseudonym to avoid supergroup connotations. Clapton roped in drummer Jim Gordon who’d played with the Beach Boys, Everly Brothers, keyboardist Bobby Whitlock and bass player Carl Radle, alongside a slide guitar player named ‘Skydog’ who was in fact, Duane Allman. Even though the band’s album proved to be yet another one-off (albeit a double album) and the fact that a Dominoes tour never took place, this band has one of the most recognizable names, and for sure, one of the most recognizable songs in rock history: ‘Layla.’
The term supergroup is totally met with this line-up. The Travelling Wilburys are the very definition of superstars in a supergroup. Covering every generation of rock and roll royalty, the band included a who’s who of rock n roll legends. 50s rocker, Roy Orbison, folk-rock legend Bob Dylan, a Beatle, in George Harrison, rock royalty in Tom Petty, and ELO’s genius writer and producer-to-the-stars, Jeff Lynne. When you add the drumming talents of session player Jim Keltner, you have supergroup heaven. Orbison sadly passed before the Wilburys recorded their second album; but their first effort was and is to this day, an absolute classic, supergroup or not.
It’s that man again, Eric Clapton. Formed in 1966, Cream was the original ‘power trio,’ and their name was pretty self-explanatory, they were literally comprised of ‘the cream’ of London’s musical elite. Clapton at the time was a former Yardbirds and Bluesbreaker member – and was hailed as the second coming in swinging sixties London. Jack Bruce was a vocalist, songwriter and bassist extraordinaire, and Ginger Baker was a drummer known for his drumming prowess in rock, R&B as well as jazz. During the course of just three years and four albums, Cream would define virtually all of the rules of supergroup status. They wrote and released game changing singles like ‘Sunshine of your Love’ and ‘Badge.’ But, as with most of these bands, Cream’s supergroup life cycle, was relatively short, but their presence and influence can still be seen and heard in the music industry to this day